Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Imagine Christopher Nolan’s Memento stripped of its cleverness and pumped with pointless twists and turns—what you’re left with is Limitless: A bland film chronicling the life of a guy, who swallows a pill, becomes an overnight genius and uses this new found intelligence to avoid consequences of being addicted to said pill. Robert De Niro intermittently does some frowny thing with his face, the end. That’s basically director Neil Burger’s (The Illusionist) latest endeavour in a nutshell.
The key problem with Limitless is its inability to classify itself as a genre. It’s not really an action movie, unless one counts the numerous sprints along cobbled sidewalks, that scene with knives and some amateur gun fighting. There are certainly no thrills to speak of, so we can rule out thriller. It isn’t remotely funny, neither is it romantic and there are no psychological games, crazy killers on the loose or glorified gore, so we can safely disregard any of those genres. It’s like an offensive mash-up of every type of bad film, armed with moments of pretty cinematography. The result is a stagnant mess, which is bemusing at best.
Problem number two would be the appalling plot premise. Based on Alan Glynn’s novel, The Dark Fields, Limitless proposes that us humans only utilize 10-20 per cent of our brains—a fallacy that has been refuted many times. In fact, we do use all of our brains, just not at the same time as that would constitute a medical problem, namely a seizure. But this is not about who’s paying attention in Biology class, it’s about the absurdity of building a dumb story around an even sillier myth.
Bradley Cooper (The A-Team, The Hangover) is Eddie Morra, a down-and-out writer whose interests obviously don’t include showering or getting his butt off the couch. This dreadful attitude leaves his editor girlfriend, Lindy (Sucker Punch’s Abbie Cornish who bears a freakishly striking resemblance to Nicole Kidman before she messed up her face) no choice but to dump him. As fate would have it, Eddie bumps into his ex-wife’s (Anna Friel) brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who offers him a clear little pill called NZT, which he claims can help him get his act together. What more does a bum like Eddie have to lose? So he takes the thing and starts experiencing some seriously wacked-out mind tremors, cinematically portrayed through various nausea-inducing camera work. Although all that suffering (on Eddie’s part) is surely not in vain, as he suddenly develops an uncanny capacity to clean his house, write half his novel and screw his married neighbour. When the effects of the pill eventually wear off, Eddie is forced to confront the reality of his common dumbness and like a true addict; he goes in search of his ex-brother-in-law, eager to obtain more of these miracle capsules.
When he visits Vernon at his apartment, he’s been badly beaten up but refuses to confide in Eddie. Instead, he makes Eddie run errands - which he gladly obeys in exchange for more pills. To his horror, Eddie discovers Vernon’s been shot dead after he returns and promptly calls the cops. Luckily for our hero, he manages to uncover Vernon’s secret stash of NZT before the police arrive. This supply is sufficient for him to finish the rest of his book, debauch a bit, become a stock market whiz and win back the cynical heart of his lady love. The crap hits the fan however, when Eddie realizes that his life might be in jeopardy – by side effects of taking the pills and from others who want to get their paws on the drug too.
Subsequent futile subplots weaved into the story involve a fellow-addicted loan shark, a mystery man who wants a piece of NZT for dubious, equally superficial reasons and a teensy dash of Wall Street-ish theatrics helmed by another valueless character played by an awfully underused De Niro—all concluding in one, big anti-climactic finale. Which is also the most jarring and noticeable problem with Limitless; there are no real consequences to anything that happens in the film, and the stakes are never adequately raised to satisfy the audiences’ curiosity or contribute to the intensity of conflicts. Plus you’d think that with all that wonderful intellect at his disposal, Eddie could have found a way to cure cancer or applied his aptitude to a million other constructive areas. But I guess there’s a lot more worthy cinematic drama going on in the stock market, right?
Cooper, while elegantly arrogant in The Hangover, lacks the edgy humour which made him so bearable so far; though even his smarmy charm is not enough to lift Limitless from these fathomless dumps.
Beckii C is a former film production tyrant who also happens to be an insatiable movie addict. When not engaged in spirited debate, she can be found scouring the town for perfect vintage fashion and whispering at small animals. Her guilty pleasures include listening to bands who can't play their own instruments and devouring cream puffs.